US Democrat Iowa Caucus Betting Odds, Tips & Analysis

US Democrat Iowa Caucus Betting Odds, Tips & Analysis

Quick Iowa Caucus Betting Odds

Less than one week out from the Iowa Caucuses - the traditional curtain raiser of primary season - Bernie Sanders is all the rage. He's into a best-priced 7/4 with Unibet for the Democratic nomination and 9/2 with Coral to become the Next President.

Sanders Odds-On For Each Of First Three Races

Such confidence is driven by the fact he is now odds-on favourite with the best political betting sites for the opening three primaries. As explained last week, history says it is extremely difficult to win the nomination without these early, momentum-building victories.

Nevertheless as the betting implies, Sanders is no certainty. In fact it isn't entirely clear what the polling picture in Iowa is. Three of the last four surveys put him in front, polling between 25 and 30%. However a fourth for Suffolk University had him on a mere 19%, 6% behind Joe Biden.

I'm strongly inclined to assume the best polls are right in Sanders case. At this stage, he evidently is the one with momentum - nationally, locally or online. His grassroots supporters were especially effective at winning caucuses in 2016 - they are probably even better organised now.

Caucuses are very different from primaries, in that their process favours the more energised and organised local campaigns. Rather than simply vote at a polling station, caucus-goers attend a local meeting to engage in a complex process, which involves eliminating weaker candidates and attempting to win their supporters over. See this guide for an explanation.

What this means is that current polls will not reflect the eventual outcome. Supporters of candidates scoring less than 15% at a particular caucus venue will transfer their votes to another candidate. In addition to the 10-15% who are undecided, a similar number will support no-hopers such as Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer and Tulsi Gabbard and therefore end up being redistributed.

Based on past Iowa results, a winning total is probably around 35% of delegates. The lowest total of a Democrat winner this century is 38% (Obama, Kerry) but the last two Republican races were won on 28 and 25%.

Star Surrogates Likely To Boost Sanders Campaign

Sanders therefore hasn't necessarily reached a winning total yet, but I wouldn't doubt he will do so, and rate 8/11 decent value. Both Yang and Gabbard supporters are very likely to switch to him, rather than the more mainstream alternatives - who are bound to split several ways.

Critically, his campaign will not be matched for excitement and enthusiasm. Four years ago I attended numerous rallies in Iowa, amongst which Bernie's gathering in Des Moines was incomparable. Queues stretched miles in the snow. This despite, at that stage, having much less name recognition and barely any well-known surrogates.

This time he's got the stars of the progressive movement - Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Michael Moore. Nobody came close to Sanders' crowd sizes last weekend.

Extra Democrat Voters Likelier To Be On Moderate Wing

The flipside to that argument is that this Democrat primary audience will be markedly different from 2016 and arguably less favorable to a progressive. Expect to see a massive rise in turnout everywhere from voters determined to defeat Trump - especially women - plus moderates and even Republicans who would have voted in the headline-dominating GOP contest four years ago.

I somewhat doubt the polls will be able to accurately pick up changed levels of enthusiasm, adding more confusion to their picture. Historically the best guide has been the Des Moines Register/Selzer poll - watch out for their final numbers over the weekend.

Whilst I do expect the Sanders vote to hold up, it won't amount to a majority and the more interesting question involves how the rest divides. Something like half of voters are undecided. They will be watching multiple rallies before making their choices, and noting endorsements.

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Warren and Buttigieg could outperform the polls

Herein lies the Sanders problem - they will go elsewhere. Elizabeth Warren has picked up the important Des Moines Register endorsement. Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar have also unveiled support from influential local leaders.

Warren is reportedly picking up late deciders. With Klobuchar apparently stuck well below 15%, the Massachusetts Senator will be the top-placed woman and also the progressive (unlike Sanders) who can appeal to a broader Democrat electorate. Repeating the fact that women have been winning ever since Trump was elected plays well with this audience. Check out this well-attended meeting in Davenport.

Warren's aim here is a top-two, worst ways top-three finish, to remain competitive. Ditto her rivals on the right, or moderate wing, of the party. National polls suggest that wing has a majority of Democrat voters - hence how Joe Biden is still leading.

For Biden, 20% and a top-three finish is fine. Few expected him to win Iowa anyway. However he has a very serious threat from Pete Buttigieg, who needs to beat Biden to build his profile and case to be the moderate voice.

Depending which poll you read, Mayor Pete is competitive. He may also be the type to benefit from extra, moderate and youth turnout. I can see him finishing second, ahead of Biden, and causing all sorts of headaches among anti-Sanders Democrats. If failing to beat the former VP, though, Buttigieg's campaign will be on life support.

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